Androma Racella is known as the Bloody Baroness, a powerful mercenary who terrorizes the Mirabel Galaxy. She and her three girl crew upon the ship, Marauder, has a bad mission and they find themselves in a treacherous situation at the mercy of a bounty hunter ex-lover Dax from Andi’s past and forced to complete a task for the man he works for.
Yet, Andi doesn’t know all she signs up for as a ruler lurks in the shadows of the deteriorating Xen Petra across the galaxy, waiting for revenge. Her plot will soon fall into place, foreshadowing the terror to come. Her dangerous journey is only the start of the saga as the Mirabel galaxy is shaken to the core.
Read the official summary here.
I really wanted to like this book. It’s got a really fun concept, and so I requested it from Edelweiss because the summary appealed to me and it looked like something I wanted to read. At the time, I had no idea who Sasha Alsberg or Lindsay Cummings were (I’m not a big BookTube person because it takes me longer to watch a BookTube video than it is to read a blog post. Time is precious.) and so I assumed they were regular authors working together on this sci-fi novel.
After reading this book, it’s not that much of a surprise to me that one of the authors was a BookTuber. This is nothing against BookTubers, because I think many of them can potentially be wonderful authors, but it explains how this book was able to get so much promo beforehand despite the mediocre to unsatisfactory writing & story telling.
This is my own opinion, but if this was queried by an unknown debut author, I don’t think it would have had the same amount of hype nor support behind its publishing.
I also didn’t know that this had previously been published as a 60 page ebook in July as part of a serial fiction thing for $2 a piece and then later acquired by Harlequin Teen & being published as a hardcover novel in January, which confused me until I did some digging.
And to add to the list of my ignorance, the editor of The Black Witch also edited this. (Guys, it’s typically not nice to rate things if you haven’t read it. Read first, rate and review after.)
Well go on and throw me into a cotton candy maker because that’s a load of stuff I didn’t know when I started reading this.
But back to my review. I wasn’t able to distinguish between what Cummings and Alsberg wrote individually, so all of my critiques will apply to both.
The writing was mediocre to sloppy. This novel is told in third person limited, so we switch between a third person telling of Andi to a third person telling of Dex with each chapter (as well as a hodge podge of some other characters). One of the biggest things I noticed were the POV issues. Sometimes, in the middle of a Dex chapter, it would begin to tell things from Andi’s POV. Nothing too noticeable, but a few paragraphs telling what Andi felt (something Dax couldn’t have known), even though it was Dex’s narrative.
Now, this might have been because of formatting issues (I have a first edition Nook from 2011, so it’s obviously not up to date tech-wise), but I don’t think there were any mid chapter breaks or an extra space that would have signified to the reader that a POV switch was about to occur. It just popped up in the middle of a fight scene or conversation, and then switched back. (source: Chapters 6 and 17)
I do hope this is corrected in the final draft because it not only confused me, but also made the writing a lot more choppy and amateur.
I also had a lot of trouble with the flow and prose at times. There’s a lot of issues with maintaining a consistent voice in this novel. Sometimes it would be unnecessarily flowery, and other times there would be an immense repetition of the word “said.” A lot of the times, there were awkwardly placed clauses that interrupted the flow. This mostly happened in the Andi chapters–the narrative was a little smoother in the chapters of the other characters. But Andi’s in particular were a little more broken, in my opinion. (This happened a lot more near the beginning and started to smooth out a little near the end).
I realize that I take good writing for granted when reading published works. If I read this on Wattpad, I wouldn’t have blinked twice at all the mishaps, but I hold published works to higher standards and was very disappointed by all the mistakes & voice issues. This read much more like a first draft where half of the story was going to be scrapped and rewritten rather than something that’s going to be published in a few months.
The plot also fell into that area where I’m just apathetic to everything that’s happening. The beginning was weird and jumpy because sometimes there would be huge info dumps with five proper nouns I knew nothing about and other times it would be rushed.
The info dumps followed a kind of format that was “a line of dialogue + a couple paragraphs of info dump + responding dialogue” which repeated. It messed a lot with the pacing and contributed to the prose issues.
Even disregarding the pacing, the plot was clichéd. I expected clichés, but the plot was very basic. I wanted some (foreshadowed) twists thrown at us, but nothing happened that really surprised me or made me go “OMG WHAT?!” I don’t mind mediocre plots, but there has to be something there to make me like a mediocre plot, whether it’s awesome characters or beautiful, lyrical prose.
Yet, none of those happened. The characters seemed very two-dimensional and unrelateable.
I had some issues with Andi’s character. The summary sells her as a ruthless killer, but it was like she was having identity problems. She never came off as ruthless killer to me, but a remorseful bunny rabbit. I didn’t really get to know who Andi was in this book. She was just there and I didn’t like nor dislike her.
I also have a problem with how Dax is advertised as “sadistic bounty hunter.” He’s not really a bounty hunter nor is he sadistic. If we look at the definition of sadistic, we find that Dax is definitely not sadistic.
- deriving pleasure from inflicting pain, suffering, or humiliation on others
He doesn’t derive pleasure from other people’s pain. Andi is more sadistic than he is. Dax just ends up wandering around trying to talk to Andi and explain their misunderstanding from the past.
Also, the misunderstanding they had was one of the most “I can’t believe that really just happened” parts about this novel. Something I like to emphasize is the importance of communication in relationships, which Andi and Dax don’t seem to hold in high regard.
I want to comment on the flashbacks in the earlier parts of the novel and how the numerous POVs were used to explain the plot. The flashbacks were like disguised info dumps. Instead of relying on the MCs to explain things and hint at what happened in the past and then go on to work things out, Alsberg and Cummings used flashbacks which were like info dumps to explain what happened in the past. Likewise, the other POVs, like the Queen on Xen Petra, were used to tell the reader about the unrest in other areas instead of having the MCs find out about it through expertly placed clues.
Both of these techniques just seemed like an easy way for Alsberg and Cummings to build mystery without actually building the mystery through more nuanced techniques.
The world building was satisfactory. I’m not really sure of everything that was happening–there were a lot of things mentioned that I never found out much of. (i.e. the Guardian system, Gollanta (?), and more) and I ended up just understanding the basic Xen Petra bad, everything else okay.
I think Cummings and Alsberg did a good job of putting work into making the world complex, but actually telling it to us in a non-info dump way didn’t really happen. I wasn’t able to retain much about the complex system of planets and what was happening in the galaxy.
I also wanted more of the science explained. This is a peeve that doesn’t only apply to this novel, but how is the artificial gravity happening? The way Cummings and Alsberg and countless other authors use artificial gravity (which defies the basic laws of physics…) needs more explanation in my mind. The only way this can happen is through centripetal force, and I’m pretty sure all the spacecraft with artificial gravity weren’t spinning cylinders. A secondary science nerd issue I had was when the word “weight” was thrown around in the middle of space. For the context it was used in, the word “mass” should have been used. (I do know that this is fiction, but I wanted a larger basis for this. It’s pretty unrealistic to say the laws of physics just miraculously don’t apply. Boom! No laws of physics, no problem.)
Overall, this book was really disappointing to me. I think it has a lot of potential, but it just seemed like it needed a lot of cleaning up before it was ready for publication. A problem might have been merging Cummings and Alsberg’s writing styles or their ability to write a cohesive-sounding piece together, which may have been why there were so many rocky parts and inconsistencies in voice.
I unfortunately would not recommend this to anyone looking for fun science fiction novel to read. I don’t think I’ll be continuing with any sequels to this series, unfortunately.
Have you read the first part of Zenith? What did you think?
Thank you to Harlequin & Edelweiss for providing me with a digital review copy in exchange for an honest review!